Devstacks might as well have a PhD in Chief Keef studies. The Springfield, Massachusetts producer is part of a SoundCloud-based community that builds on moments of instrumental grandeur scattered across Keef’s discography (see loosies like “Fool Ya” or tapes like GloToven), imagining what would happen if that small slab of his style was its own thing. What materialized is a microgenre dubbed “regalia,” which basically infuses Chicago drill and Atlanta trap with the orchestral extravagance of old Hollywood epics and royal animes. Scriptures, the seven track mixtape entirely rapped and produced by Devstacks, is an all-out showcase for the style and a mesmerizing journey in its own right.
If the title isn’t a dead giveaway, or the massive cross on the album cover, let me tell you that Christianity is the mixtape’s overarching theme. But it’s channeled into the hallowed production more than the messaging (although he does rap at one point, “She say she a Christian/I think she a liar/She was in them streets/But she said she retired,” so maybe that’s something.) The intro “Praise God” is true to its title, sounding like it should be playing over an impassioned speech from The Ten Commandments; by the time Devstacks starts lightly murmuring, you hardly register his brags about Prada and how he could “bag yo’ mama’.” Instead, his voice feels like another instrument added to the layers. The following track, “Nun Like The Rest,” is similarly over-the-top, making you feel like you’re staring upward in a cathedral, thanks to digital whispers that don’t sound far off from sped-up Grimes.
The fluttering, melodramatic beats are the main draw; the plain lyrics and melodies are secondary. I listen to Scriptures much like I do a Pi’erre Bourne album. You could point out the unimaginative simplicity of say, “Cookin’ all these beats like I’m bakin’” on “U Didn’t,” but really the song is about how his voice inhabits the guitar-driven spectacle. Or you could note how his vocals are flat and boring on “Can’t Help It,” but the celestial bent he puts on mid 2010s Metro Boomin and Sonny Digital makes you want to let it slide. It’s hard to forgive “Facetime,” though, because the beat just sounds like an Opium reject.
The brevity of Scriptures is a blessing, because its sound is so potent that hearing too much would be like biting into a head of garlic. Structural shakeups could give the sound more legs: A bright spot in that respect is “Glo Up,” which starts off with Devstacks repeating “Had to glo up, had to show them” while synths that sound like choral chants keep the Biblical mood intact. Then in the back half, the beat fades out and turns to quiet yet heavenly pianos and choir croons. Devstacks catches you off guard for a moment, which goes a long way. As any Keef head knows, sometimes those few unpredictable seconds blow your mind the most.